Cultivate Summer 2020

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Cultivate SUMMER 2020

Virginia Farm Bureau

American Icon Bison are returning to Virginia farms

Cultivate Volume 13, Number 3 Summer 2020 Cultivate (USPS 025051) (ISSN 19468121) is published four times a year. February, May, August, October. It is published by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, 12580 West Creek Parkway, Richmond, VA 23238. Periodicals postage rate is paid at Richmond, VA and additional mailing offices. The annual Subscription Rate is $1.31 (included in membership dues).


Features 8


The other nuts

Virginia-grown peanuts are popular, but tree nuts such as black walnuts, chestnuts and pecans also thrive in Virginia.

Frying Pan Farm Park preserves Fairfax’s farming roots

A time when cows outnumbered humans in Fairfax County is preserved at this working farm. 12


“They’re naturally curious—when you open a gate, they want to go through it.” — MIKE MORRIS, Melrose Bison Farm, Campbell County

Magnificent beasts roam Virginia farms

American bison are making a comeback and providing “the best red meat in the world.”

All advertising is accepted subject to the publisher’s approval. Advertisers must assume liability for the content of their advertising. The publisher assumes no liability for products or services advertised. The publisher maintains the right to cancel advertising for non-payment or reader complaints about services or products. Member: Virginia Press Association

EDITORIAL TEAM Pam Wiley Director, Communications Kathy Dixon Managing Editor Nicole Zema Staff Writer/Photographer Adam Culler Staff Writer/Photographer Patricia Hooten Graphic Designer Maria La Lima Graphic Designer Alice Kemp Staff Writer/Advertising Coordinator

Modern heirlooms saved by gardeners and passed on

Old-time vegetable varieties like Cherokee Purple tomatoes and Greasy beans produce unique tastes and flavors.

Postmaster: Please send changes of address to, Cultivate, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, P.O. Box 27552, Richmond, VA 23261; fax 804-2901096. Editorial and business offices are located at 12580 West Creek Parkway, Richmond, VA 23238. Telephone 804-290-1000, fax 804-290-1096. Email address is Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Departments 3

Did You Know?


For Your Benefit


Heart of the Home



MEMBERS — Address change? If your address or phone number has changed, or is about to change, contact your county Farm Bureau. They will update your membership and subscription information.


Associate members will receive their next issue of Cultivate in October. The magazine is published quarterly, and back issues can be viewed at

ON THE COVER Bison are herding some farmers toward success (Photo by Nicole Zema).


know? SEASONAL SUMMER SQUASH, which is piled high in farmers markets and grocery stores this time of year, likely helped Virginia settlers make it through the colony’s first few harsh winters. Native to Mexico and Central America, squashes are one of the oldest known crops—10,000 years old based on seeds found in Mexican caves. Squash was grown and eaten by Native Americans and later cultivated by colonists, who learned to bake the cucurbitas. The most recent Census of Agriculture found 482 Virginia farms growing nearly 840 acres of summer squash. Summer squash is an excellent source of manganese, copper, folate, potassium, fiber and vitamin A. Squashes can be grilled, boiled, sautéed or steamed.


This month on Real Virginia: Learn how seedling nurseries provide cover for future forests Featured this month on Real Virginia, Virginia Farm Bureau’s weekly television program: • Nurseries operated by the Virginia Department of Forestry produce millions of seedlings each year for reforestation. • Raising bison has herded some Virginia farmers toward success. • Learn about hot-weather crops like summer squash. • Discover the agricultural diversity of Spotsylvania County on this month’s County Agriculture Close-up.

Real Virginia airs nationwide at 3:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month on RFD-TV on Dish Network and DirecTV, and on selected cable outlets around the state. It airs weekly on WVPT Harrisonburg, WBRA Roanoke, WCVE Richmond, WHRO Norfolk, WVVA Bluefield and WTKR Norfolk. Watch Real Virginia anytime online at VirginiaFarmBureau.


2,000 pounds

That’s how much the average bison bull can weigh. Bison are making a comeback, and several Virginia bison farmers want consumers to learn more about these magnificent beasts. Read all about them on page 16.



Farmers in ship shape to help communities during the pandemic



imes of crisis can bring out the best in people, and during the early months of the COVID19 pandemic farmers were among Virginians who used ingenuity and compassion to help neighbors in need.

Farmers feeding communities

Farmers in King William County leant a hand to area families and restaurants affected by COVID-19. Working with King William County Farm Bureau and King William County Public Schools, farmers raised $4,300 to donate to 36 local families in need. Families received gift certificates to six local restaurants. Each gift certificate provided $15 per family member. “The ultimate initiative was to help the children and families that are in need,” said J.N. Mills, a farmer in Mangohick. “On top of that, we’re keeping the money in the community with gift certificates to businesses in the community. Our goal was to help everyone in the community.”

Converting to hand sanitizer

Distilleries and wineries across the state found themselves in a unique position to convert alcohol into hand sanitizer, and many did just that. When pandemic regulations essentially closed Dida’s Distillery in Rappahannock County, distiller Allan Delmare was sitting on several highproof batches of spirits. Making hand sanitizer didn’t occur to him— until emergency and health care services called.


“So, we commenced with converting our alcohol into hand sanitizer and donating to agencies and individuals in need,” Delmare said. Donations helped cover their production costs, and they made nearly 2,000 gallons of sanitizer for over 200 individuals and organizations, including first responders, medical professionals, delivery services and more. Old House Vineyards—a winery, distillery and brewery in Culpeper County—also started making hand sanitizer and contributed 22,000 bottles to area businesses and nonprofits, a COVID-19 testing center, hospice centers and families affected by coronavirus. Distillery manager Ryan Kearney said they plan to continue producing sanitizer for the rest of 2020. “It went from zero to 100 quickly,” Kearney said. “The town got behind it. They wanted to put it in the hands of town and essential employees as everything started to shut down.”



Top, Old House Vineyards employees make hand sanitizer. Center, King William County Farm Bureau board and women’s committee members gathered with school officials to present restaurant gift certificates for local families in need. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue employees receive hand sanitizer from Didas Distillery. / SUMMER 2020


When Sweethaven Lavender Farm had to cancel its Sweethaven Lavender Festival Days, Kerry Messer got the idea to start Convert for the Courageous. In lieu of refunds, festival ticket holders could choose to convert their $15 tickets into $20 of skin care donations. “As we began hearing from our friends who are medical professionals that their hands were extremely irritated—even to the point of bleeding—from the excessive hand washing required during this outbreak, we knew that our products would help protect their skin,” said Messer, who owns Sweethaven Lavender with her family. Sweethaven has donated over $8,100 of creams and salves made from lavender on their farm to four area hospitals. More than 400 medical professionals received gifts.


Soothing healing hands

Health care professionals from Williamsburg and Newport News hospitals received skin care donations from Sweethaven Lavender Farm.

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For Your Benefit

Members save time and money with Farm Bureau benefits Member Deals Plus® helps you save on goods and services

Planning a get-away?

Virginia Farm Bureau’s exclusive Member Deals Plus® benefit uses the nation’s largest private discount network to save you money on meals, clothing, vehicle care, and other goods and services. Mobile deals can be accessed from a smartphone or home computer.

The Choice Hotels International program offers a 20% discount off “best available rates” for Farm Bureau members at more than 5,000 locations. To access this discount rate, call 800-258-2847 or visit Use the Virginia Farm Bureau identification number, available at and from your county Farm Bureau, when making a reservation. Present your membership card when you check in.

How to get started

To register as a Member Deals Plus user, visit, and click the Member Deals Plus link near the top of the page. Then, on the Member Deals Plus website, 1. Click “Register” in the top right corner, and use your Farm Bureau membership number. 2. Once you’re registered, you can start saving immediately. Then, to save with a mobile device, 1. Download the “Member Deals Plus” app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. 2. Sign in with your email address and password you created on the website. For assistance, contact Member Deals Plus customer service at 888-275-9136. Member Deals Plus and Member Deals plus are registered trademarks of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Enter to win a Ford vehicle before Sept. 30 Members have until Sept. 30 to enter the Built Ford Proud Sweepstakes* for a chance to win a two-year lease on a new Ford vehicle. Visit or text the word SWEEPS to 46786 to enter. *NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. MUST BE LEGAL RESIDENT OF U.S. OR D.C., 21 YEARS OR OLDER WITH VALID DRIVER’S LICENSE TO ENTER AND A CURRENT FARM BUREU MEMBER. ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS MAY APPLY. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes ends 9/30/2020. For entry and official rules with complete eligibility, prize description and other details, visit farmbureau/sweeps. Sponsored by Ford Motor Company, One American Road, Dearborn, MI 48126.

Save on hotel stays and rental cars Choice Hotels International

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Whether you’re looking for an upscale hotel, an all-inclusive resort or something in between, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has the right hotel for you! As a Virginia Farm Bureau member, you will save up to 20% off the “best available rate” at over 8,000 participating hotels worldwide. To take advantage of this discount rate, call 877-670-7088 or visit wyndhamhotels. com/farm-bureau. Use the Virginia Farm Bureau identification number, available at and from your county Farm Bureau, when making a reservation. Present your membership card when you check in.


To book affordable resort vacations, start at TripBeat provides access to thousands of resort condo rental properties in the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond. Once you register on the TripBeat website, you’ll find details on $399 Weekly Getaways. There is no limit on how many $399 Weekly Getaways Farm Bureau members in Virginia can book. Farm Bureau members also save 25% on short stays. To book by phone, call 844-367-6433, and mention that you are a Virginia Farm Bureau member.

Save on car rentals from Avis, Budget

Save up to 30% off Avis base rates with Virginia Farm Bureau’s Avis Worldwide Discount number. Call 800-331-1212 or visit to make a reservation. Save up to 30% off Budget base rates with Virginia Farm Bureau’s Budget Customer Discount number. Plus get other great offers like dollars off, a free upgrade or a free weekend day. Call 800-527-0700 or visit to make a reservation. Your Virginia Farm Bureau Avis Worldwide Discount number and Budget Customer Discount number are available from your county Farm Bureau and in the “Membership at Work” section of (Register as a member on the site, and log in first).

Caterpillar offers savings on equipment and attachments If you’re planning some heavy work this summer or fall, Caterpillar, Inc. offers Farm Bureau members savings of up to $2,500 on select Cat machines, as well as a $250 credit on work tool attachments purchased with a new Cat machine. Savings are good on excavators, small wheel loaders and dozers, backhoe loaders and more. You can generate a certificate to present at your local dealership at benefits; have your membership number at hand. / SUMMER 2020





tanding at attention, centuryold pecan trees line the backyard of Donald and Diane Horsley’s home at Land of Promise Farms in Virginia Beach. Diane Horsley isn’t sure who planted the trees, but she knows the trees were already mature by the time her parents, Ralph and Irene Frost, purchased the farm in 1959. Growing up under their shade, she says she used to harvest the pecans as a chore. Now the chore belongs to the people, and guests arrive from all corners of Virginia to pick pecans each fall. Producing up to 1,000 pounds a year, the pecan trees at Land of Promise Farms offer a rare Virginia-grown alternative in a snacking industry dominated by peanuts. “You’d be surprised at the number of people who see we have pecans and call wanting to be sure they can get in,” Horsley said. “Some people like the larger, hard-shell Stuart pecans, and other people like the medium papershell pecans they can just crack in their hands. We have both varieties.”

Peanuts nudge out specialty nuts

A product of peanuts’ prevalence in Southeast Virginia, specialty nuts like pecans aren’t widely produced in the Old Dominion. While the heat of Southeast Virginia provides a suitable climate for growing nuts like almonds, pecans and pistachios, peanuts have laid claim on the land since the 1840s. Peanuts are legumes that grow underground, but thrive in the same soils as tree nuts. Instead of commercial production, most nuts in Virginia grow naturally. 8


Land of Promise Farms Virginia Beach PECANS NICOLE ZEMA

Virginia Chestnuts LLC Nelson County



Native species like black walnut, hickory, American hazelnut and Allegheny chinquapin trees all produce edible nuts, but there’s little evidence to support any are grown specifically for their nut output. “Typically, we have wild-type stock growing in Virginia that some years produce a good crop and some years not,” said Dr. John Munsell, a professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension forest management specialist at Virginia Tech. “Oftentimes, [the nuts] are just left on the ground. Some people might come in and glean, but there’s not a lot of intentionality of nut production.” Because black walnuts can produce a bitter taste, the trees are valued for their timber. Various types of hickory nuts, including shagbark, mockernut, bitternut and pignut, have received renewed interest from specialty producers who mill the nuts into flour. American hazelnuts and chinquapins, Munsell says, are rare in Virginia’s forests.

American-Chinese hybrid chestnut trees line 3 acres of Seamans’ Orchard in Nelson County, where farmers are growing a blight-resistant variety. Chestnuts start as furry strands called catkins and mature into protective sharp husks that cover the nuts.




Native chestnuts reemerging

Once native to Virginia’s forestland before being wiped out by blight in the early 1900s, chestnuts are reemerging in the mountains of Nelson County thanks to local farmers. Producing an American-Chinese hybrid resistant to blight, Breidablik Farm, Bryant Farm and Nursery, Helbert Orchard, Hopkins Orchard and Seamans’ Orchard Inc. collectively grow and market their chestnuts as Virginia Chestnuts LLC. Together, the five farms produced 11,000 pounds of chestnuts in 2019. With little to disturb the trees in their native environment, growers are anticipating greater output as the chestnuts continue to mature and flourish. “Chestnuts are natural up and down the East Coast,” said Carter Parr, Seamans’ manager. “One hundred years ago, that’s what most parts of forests were—chestnuts.” / SUMMER 2020


Till the cows come home Frying Pan Farm Park showcases progressive farming of the past


rior to World War II, cows far outnumbered humans in what is now the most populous county in the commonwealth. A bucolic capsule of that time is preserved at Frying Pan Farm Park in Fairfax County. Its 135 acres, tucked away from Northern Virginia’s dense suburbs and Dulles International Airport traffic, is a destination that welcomes 750,000 visitors annually. Admission is free, and the park is open year-round. Guests can experience agricultural scenes and activities of the 1930s at its preserved working farm. The farm’s 40 acres of crops, pasture and farmyard are home to dairy and beef cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys, rabbits, chickens, peacocks and ducks. But the crops aren’t just for show, and the animals are not simply barnyard pets. “Part of our mission is making people aware of where their food comes from,” said park manager Yvonne Johnson, who first volunteered at Frying Pan Farm Park in 1989 and never left. “We produce the crops we feed to the animals, and we produce the animals that we sell at market.” Visitors can tour the grounds on foot or by wagon, watch sheep shearing at Spring Farm Days, have a picnic, walk the nature trail, relax on the farmhouse porch and peruse the museum exhibit in a converted 1876 Dairy Barn. A 1791 Baptist Meeting House and one of the oldest cemeteries in the county also are preserved at the park. 10


Interpreters bring past to life Fairfax County was once the dairy capital of Virginia, thanks to its proximity to populated cities in the days before refrigerated trucks. The site’s historical interpretation is derived from stories about real farmers who lived and worked there. “I didn’t know how to be an interpreter and teach people about farming, and I did not like learning history growing up,” said Johnson, whose background is in biology. “But when I started learning the stories of the day-to-day people who lived here, I was able to do a series of oral history interviews with them and capture their stories firsthand.” The teenage sons of dairy farmer Mason F. Smith Jr. worked on the farm in the 1940s. “You got up pretty darn early to help dad milk cows in the morning,” Johnson said. “They would find a place to hide in the hayloft where dad couldn’t find them so they could get a nap in. Dad would be running around the farm calling for them! Those are the kinds of stories that made me love history—the real people who built this county.”

Progressive farming backbone of park Johnson said the second-highest producing dairy cow in the world, Sadie, was raised on the farm in the early 1900s. Sadie’s efficiency represented an innovative approach to farming in the last century.



“Farmers were progressive in this community, involving 4-H, FFA and Cooperative Extension and an active Dairy Herd Improvement Association,” Johnson said. “They were always looking for ways to improve and be progressive farmers.” Frying Pan Farm Park is named for its unofficial designation scrawled on old maps, located in what is now known as the Floris community of Herndon. The park is part of the Fairfax County Park Authority and opened to the public in 1961. Fifty employees and 50 volunteers work at the park to maintain dozens of features and attractions. The property hosts 4-H clubs and other groups at its event venue, indoor and outdoor equestrian arenas, meeting and classroom spaces and multiple playgrounds. The site’s tradition of education continues today with a licensed preschool, and hosting nearly 10,000 school kids for field trips each year. In 1920 a Vocational Technical High School was opened on what is now the park’s land. Johnson said 32% of students from the school’s first graduating class attended college. “That’s tremendous for that era— country kids going to college,” Johnson said. “But it shows these people were extremely dedicated. And that’s the other part of our mission—farming isn’t for fun. It’s a business for people to feed their families, like your dad goes to the office. And like any business, you have to learn to be efficient and try new things to move forward in the industry.”

plan your visit

Frying Pan Farm Park


Fairfax County Frying Pan Farm Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and general admission is free. Facility hours vary. For more information, visit frying-pan-park or call 703-437-9101. The Country Store carries gift items and locally produced edible treats, cold drinks and farm-fresh meats and eggs. While most animals are part of the working-model farm and are sold at market, the park’s award-winning Belgian draft horses are raised on site for visitors to enjoy. Group visits can be scheduled through the website. Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, owns the animals and covers the annual $30,000 for their care. To learn more, visit

An historic image shows a bird’s-eye view of the farm, barn and farmhouse owned by Floyd Kidwell circa 1920. Inset, a modern barn is in use at the site now. Each year, up to 750,000 guests visit the park, where they can see the working-farm animals like sheep. Wagon rides allow visitors to see the park’s award-winning Belgian draft horses. / SUMMER 2020


Heirloom obsession Old-time vegetable varieties activate senses while stirring memories



lavor is a language that tells a story without words. The pursuit of tastes and textures from the past has many Virginians clamoring for heirloom vegetable varieties, made possible by the obsessive dedication of heirloom seed savers who ensure unique, old-time varieties endure. Like an oral history that was never recorded, heirloom varieties can be lost if not perpetuated, existing only in memories that inevitably fade. “Heirloom” produce is loosely defined, though its varieties are distinctive. “An heirloom doesn’t have to be very, very old, but it has to have been grown long enough ago to be a stabilized variety that has demonstrated its identity and value,” said Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Louisa County. Its network of seed growers offer more than 700 varieties of seeds, specializing in heirlooms that perform well in the region. “Traditionally, heirlooms have been maintained for 50 or more years by a family or community, though there are exceptions,” Wallace continued. “Many modern heirlooms were originally commercial varieties dropped from the seed trade, but have been saved by gardeners and passed on through the years since.” 12




Heirlooms harbor distinct flavors Heirloom flavors seem to linger on the palate. Last year at Dorey Park Farmers Market in Henrico County, customers repeatedly asked farmer John Bryant for “smooth kale.” “ ‘That’s what I ate growing up; that’s what my grandmother fixed,’ ” Bryant recalled.customers saying. “But I’d never heard of it.” He shopped for smooth kale heirloom seeds, known as Vates kale, and planted them for harvest this year. “It’s been around forever, and it is delicious,” Bryant said. “It is smooth, not tight and frilly.” Bryant, general manager of Old Tavern Farms in New Kent County, grows both heirloom and hybrid vegetables and berries, and raises heritage hogs and chickens on his 400acre farm. He is a steward of the same land his grandfather worked more than 100 years ago.




An otherworldly gradient of bluegreen hues shimmered on a row of Tuscan kale, an old Italian variety. Its neighbor, red Russian kale, was laced with purple-pink veins. Of 30 different lettuce varieties, Bryant pointed to several heirlooms like Speckled Bibb and Oak Leaf that are good in salad mixes. “Radicchio is a specialty item that restaurants want,” Bryant said. “Deer Tongue has been around forever. It’s a sweet lettuce with the texture and firmness of spinach. And this / SUMMER 2020








Heirloom obsession

Ball Batavian is an heirloom variety from Monticello.” Papa Cacho potatoes from Peru, oddly shaped Bennings Green Tint squash and Purple Top White Globe turnips are included in the farm’s roster of heirloom varieties. Heirloom beans also perform well and replenish nitrogen in the soil, Bryant said. “Heirloom rutabagas are new to us this year,” he continued. “They are closely related to turnips but have a different flavor. They’re a good mashed potato substitute for paleo folks. And the greens are edible with very mild kale flavor, like broccoli greens.” Chioggia beets were planted upon request for Chef Tammy Brawley of The Green Kitchen, who is the featured chef on Virginia Farm Bureau’s TV program, Real Virginia. “Chioggia is an old heirloom variety but doesn’t really look different until you slice it open,” Bryant said. “Whiteand red-striped—it’s a real pretty beet. It’s got that original old-time beet flavor to it, though a lot of people say it has an earthy taste. You either love them or hate them.” Bryant said the sugar content of beets has increased through selective

Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter: What’s in a name? The SESE catalog is punctuated with uniquely named varieties. Mortgage Lifter is a popular heirloom tomato with a curious name, and the seeds tell a story. M.C. Byles, known as “Radiator Charlie” for his car repair business in West Virginia, developed this tomato in the 1930s. While he had no formal education or botany expertise, he used a baby’s ear syringe to cross-breed four of the largest tomato plants he could find. The pollination and selection process was repeated for six years until he had a stable variety. He sold the plants at a premium for $1 each, and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house in six years.

breeding, as many newer hybrids are developed for modern tastes and commerce. Typical tomato hybrids are bred to be picked green and gas-ripened for commercial growing and shipping, so they’re intact when stocked in grocery stores. Those hybrids have improved, Bryant said. “But heirlooms still have it over modern hybrids. And now to some degree, with the resurgence of farmers markets and local produce, there is certainly a segment of the population that wants an heirloom flavor.” For Bryant, the taste and texture of heirloom tomatoes is iterated in Cherokee Purples. They grew in rows beside Brandywines, Rutgers and Mortgage Lifters on his farm. “Their pepperiness—it’s what people say a tomato is supposed to taste like.”

Seed savers prep for next season While Bryant works almost 24/7 on the farm, heirloom seed savers like Wallace carefully prepare seeds for next season. “That’s what’s great about Ira—the labor and dedication,” Bryant said.

“They take all that time to document and select the best seeds for the next year’s crop. We just have to go online and order!” Wallace is education and seed selection coordinator for SESE, and author of The Timber Press Guide to Gardening in the Southeast. Beginner seed savers can learn techniques online, but seed packets are affordable enough for home gardeners to attempt their own heirloom gardens. Greasy beans have a funny name, and serious nutritional content. Those are Wallace’s favorite heirloom. “They are hairless and look like they’re already buttered, but also are special because they remain crisp and tender even as seeds mature in the pod,” Wallace said. “That means you get a higher-protein vegetable that’s still tasty. They were traditionally called Leather Britches—hung up and dried in attics across Appalachia.” Not every heirloom variety has a wellarticulated narrative, but the flavors alone help connect us to the past. There is comfort in the aftertaste, knowing such a savory experience is likely preserved for the future.

Marinated heirloom veggie salad This simple salad is almost too pretty to eat, but don’t count on having leftovers! The distinctive flavors inherent in heirloom vegetables will keep your dinner companions coming back for more. This dish marinates overnight—an effortless wow factor for a summer spread. INGREDIENTS 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 1 medium zucchini, cubed

3 medium peppers—sweet yellow, red and green, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium yellow summer squash, cubed

6-ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained

1 medium cucumber, cubed

½ to ¾ cup Italian salad dressing

1 small red onion, chopped

DIRECTIONS In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. Recipe by Mary Ann Renner, Greensville County Farm Bureau, adapted from the cookbook Bring it to the Table, The Surprising Southeast Virginia Farm Bureau Women / SUMMER 2020






ob Ferguson remembers when 260 of his bison escaped. “A rusty chain broke off an exterior gate,” said Ferguson, who co-owns Virginia Bison Company at Cibola Farms in Culpeper with Mike Sipes. “They were all excited and playing, and they dispersed miles apart. The sheriff came and got us because they were getting ready to cross the street going toward town.” Ferguson likened it to trying to round up deer. After an exhausting day searching and calling the herd, all the bison were safely returned to the farm. It’s an entertaining story now, but he said it was anxiety-inducing at the time. Bison are wild animals— aggressive, temperamental and smart.

Bison require a different approach

Bison farmers have a genuine fascination and appreciation for the big animals, and raising them requires a different approach. Strong wildlife fencing is used to keep them contained, and farmers are mostly hands-off. “We try not to really fool with them,” Sipes said. “Except for maybe once a year during round-up. Even our de-worming process or any medical stuff is as minimally hands-on as possible.” Bison primarily eat grass and like to roam. And while they’re not as hard on the ground as cattle, Cibola practices mob grazing, or short-duration, highintensity grazing. After a few days of grazing and wallowing in the dirt to deter flies, they’re rotated to new pastures so grass can rejuvenate. When it’s time to work them through a corral or move to a new field, they don’t respond well to “whooping and hollering” as Sipes calls it. Instead, they’re called and led. Once a dominant cow starts moving, the rest will follow. It’s their herd instinct.

“We kind of have them trained,” Ferguson said. “They know that they’re going from a pasture that’s run out of resources to something that’s green and lush.”

Tricks work on instincts

Virginia Bison Company at Cibola Farms has been raising bison since 1999.

A bison’s massive head is used as a snowplow in the winter to forage for grass.

Mike Morris, owner of Melrose Bison Farm in Campbell County, attests that bison farming requires a lot of learning, trial and error. He said the best way to work bison is to use their instincts against them. “You basically have to trick them. They’re naturally curious—when you open a gate, they want to go through it. So, I’ll let them go through and then close it,” Morris said. “They’re not as much work as cattle, but it’s a lot more intense. You’re always kind of redesigning things.” Morris once had a bull that would jump on his fence and crush it. Tired of frequent repairs, he reinforced the upper part of the fence with horizontal steel bars. And while a bison herd looks calm and content grazing in a pasture, they’re highly territorial and dangerous. “You can’t just go out and walk in the middle of the field,” Morris said. “Once they get excited, all bets are off.”

Herds slowly recovering Melrose Bison Farms’ signs let people know there are bison in the area.

Bison calves are sometimes called ‘red dogs’ because they are born with an orangy-red coat. It turns brown around the time they’re ready to wean.

History books describe the tragic plight of bison during the 19th century. Prior to westward expansion, roughly 60 million roamed the Great Plains, but within the century they were systemically slaughtered to nearextinction. “At the end of the 1800s, there were less than 1,000,” Morris said. Public and private conservation efforts are slowly increasing populations. Between national and state parks and independent bison farms, there are about 385,000 in North America today according to the National Bison Association. But the expense of raising bison, along with / SUMMER 2020


Mike Morris said bison farming requires lots of trial and error.

the space needed, can be difficult to manage. Numbers are growing though, and as the commercial market expands, more people become interested. “It’s farmers like us and national parks that are really putting in the effort and bringing them back,” Sipes said.

A lean, healthy meat

Compared to beef, America’s original red meat tastes slightly sweeter and is higher in protein and omega-3 fats. Bison also is lower in calories and cholesterol, and rich in iron, zinc and vitamin B12. “It’s one of the best red meats in the world for human consumption,” Sipes said. “The nutritional value is off the charts.” Because it’s so lean, it’s recommended that consumers cook bison steaks medium-rare to keep them tender and juicy—never past medium—and closely monitor internal temperature. “If you overcook them, you might as well chew on your shoe,” Morris advised. “They’ll be dry and tough.”



Clockwise from top left: Bison leather cuffs and bison oil candles are among products sold by Virginia Bison Company. Bison leather is soft, strong and durable. It can be used to make purses, wallets, belts and more. Large bison head mounts adorn the walls in Virginia Bison Company’s store. A wide variety of bison meat, from steaks to jerky, are available for purchase as well as decorative bison skulls.

RECIPES Cibola Burgers

1 tablespoon kosher salt


1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 pounds ground bison meat (with ground pork or sausage)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

½ red onion, diced 3 ounces mushrooms 6 dashes Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning ¼-½ jalapeno, diced DIRECTIONS In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, and mix well. Shape mixture into patties. Grill patties over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then flip again, and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until cooked through to your preference.

Coffee-rubbed Steak INGREDIENTS ¼ cup chili powder ¼ cup finely ground espresso 2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons ground ginger 2 boneless bison ribeyes or strip steaks canola oil or olive oil salt and coarsely ground black pepper DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 425°. Combine all spices in a bowl. This rub is very flexible and can accommodate many alterations. Preheat a cast-iron pan over high heat. Brush each side of the steak with oil, and then season each side liberally with salt and pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the coffee rub onto one side of each steak. Cook the steak, rub side down, for 2 minutes. Flip the steak over, cook for 2 more minutes and then transfer the pan to the oven. Bake to medium-rare using a meat thermometer, about 5-8 minutes, or to 145°. Remove from the pan, and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve. - Recipes courtesy of Virginia Bison Co.

QUIRKY BISON FACTS • Bison cows weigh 1,000-1,200 pounds, and bulls average 1,500-2,000 pounds. • Despite their bulk, bison can run 40 mph and jump 6 feet high. • A bison’s hump supports its massive head, allowing the animal to use its head as a snowplow in winter—pushing away snow to access grass. • Bison snort and grunt to communicate with each other. • Calves are the size of a small dog and born a surprising orange color. Their coat changes to brown once they start to wean. • Bison show aggression by raising their tails and snorting. If you see a bison looking at you with its tail up, run! • They cannot be milked. Any product labeled buffalo milk or buffalo cheese is produced from water buffalo milk. / SUMMER 2020


Striking gold

Suffolk peanut fields yield unique coffee



James Harrell enjoys a cup of his Virginia Gold coffee.

efore commercial coffee roasters moved to town and turned Suffolk into Virginia’s “caffeine capital,” the city had long been revered as “The Peanut Capital of the World.” Driving through Suffolk with the smell of roasted coffee wafting in the air and a cup of Joe in hand, the two worlds serendipitously intersected in the mind of James Harrell. “I had an aha moment,” six years ago, said Harrell, a fifthgeneration Suffolk peanut farmer. “I was driving by one of the coffee roasting facilities here, and you can smell the coffee for miles. This was right before peanut harvesting season, and it was at that moment when I thought, ‘Why don’t I make coffee out of peanuts?’” “I think it’s really After harboring the idea for a year and important, as far as local taking another six months to perfect the production process, Harrell followed products and peanut through on the idea and started selling products in Virginia, that Virginia Gold™ peanut coffee in 2017. The we’ve created an entirely name is a nod to the product’s roots in Suffolk and the golden hue of the original new category in the peanut batch. industry.” — JAMES HARRELL To produce Virginia Gold, Harrell uses split Virginia peanuts grown on Harrell Farms, which is owned by his father, Dennis Harrell. Manufacturing the peanut coffee with roasting and oil extraction equipment Harrell built himself, the entire production process is done in-house, creating a uniquely Virginia product. For Virginia Gold to reach a consistency resembling coffee, the peanuts are roasted and ground, and their oil extracted before they’re finished with a final grind. The product’s caffeine content is added after it is extracted from decaffeinated coffee beans. Harrell describes the blend as a smoother, less-acidic coffee alternative. The taste, he says, resembles a medium-roast coffee. Caffeinated and naturally decaffeinated varieties are available for purchase at As the product received media coverage in early 2020, Harrell said he met with an investor to discuss an expansion. However, those plans were temporarily put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undaunted by the holdup, Harrell is content with the current business size and low overhead. Coming from a long line of peanut farmers, he’s especially happy to use his one-man operation to oblige the wishes of his grandfather, Robert Lee Harrell, to have people consume more peanuts. “I think it’s really important, as far as local products and peanut products in Virginia, that we’ve created an entirely new category in the peanut industry,” Harrell said. “Now that we have peanut coffee, it’s just an entirely new way of using the peanut. In a sense, that increases consumption over time.”

Peanut coffee is a less-acidic alternative to regular coffee.

Oil is extracted from ground peanuts, and then caffeine is added before the final grind. 20


From cultivar to cup: Peanuts have been turned into a value-added product. / SUMMER 2020


Amherst agent Ed Sale named Ralph Stokes Award Honoree



humble act of generosity had a profound impact on Amherst County Farm Bureau insurance agent Ed Sale. While serving meals to destitute families in Guatemala on a church mission trip, Sale noticed a little girl standing in line, waiting for volunteers to fill her bowl with rice and chicken broth. “She had torn clothes and three rubber bands on her wrist,” said Sale. “She wouldn’t take that bowl until she took two rubber bands off her wrist and gave each of us one. So, when you get back home, you’re a pretty humble person.” His dedication and commitment to serving others was officially celebrated when Sale was named 2020 Ralph Stokes Award Honoree—the top sales award for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. The honor usually is announced at the end of the annual sales conference in March, which was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sale’s heart for service has led him on multiple mission trips to Guatemala and Haiti. He doesn’t take a clean drink of water for granted. That broad worldview gives Sale a vantage point to recognize how good he has it, and he works hard to pay it forward. “When you go to third-world countries you really learn how blessed we are in this country,” he said. “It made me realize how much God has given me. And as it says in the book of Luke, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’”

Ed Sale shares farm time with his granddaughters, Paisley, left, and Madison Sale.

Honoree chose service over reward

opportunity to participate in an overseas mission trip instead. “It’s a difficult choice—to volunteer in a third-world country over an allexpenses-paid weeklong fishing trip on the Gulf Coast,” Leonard said. “But Ed didn’t hesitate, honoring his commitment to his church, his community and to those less fortunate.” Generations of Sales still live on the same sunny acres in Amherst where he was born and raised. The family is deeply connected to its agricultural ancestry. Sale lives on a road named for his grandfather, a tobacco grower and cattle farmer. His son’s family resides in the house built by Sale’s greatgrandparents. Now Sale, his father and brother raise beef cattle on the land. “I’ve never found any place I love more than right here,” Sale said. “I try to give Farm Bureau 50, 55 hours a week, but the rest of my time is spent out here.” Before joining the VFBMIC family, Sale was his own boss at an auto parts store, where he worked in customer service from the age of 19. In 2001, two-time Ralph Stokes Honoree John Parr encouraged Sale to test for a sales position at Farm Bureau. Sale said those are the only two jobs he’s ever had. “I always liked sales, maybe because I love people. I had a lot of relationships that brought me a lot of business.”

Ray Leonard, VFBMIC vice president of sales, said Sale has long been known as a top-producing agent in Farm Bureau and is well respected in his community. Sale recently qualified to attend a sales-incentive fishing excursion, but declined the 22


In addition to the long list of Sales’ awards and accomplishments shared with the VFB network, his proudest work has been in service to his community. He coached Dixie Youth Baseball for 20 years and was league president, and he served 16 years with the Amherst Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Award’s namesake known for determination The Ralph Stokes Award, presented by the sales management team of the Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., is the top recognition given annually to an agent who has a high degree of integrity, offers Farm Bureau members excellent service and has earned the respect of his or her peers. Farm Bureau established the Ralph Stokes Award in 1986, the same year Stokes retired after selling Farm Bureau insurance for 32 years. Stokes was known for his motivation and a high level of mobility, despite the fact that he used a wheelchair. His physical limitations did not deter him from faithfully serving policyholders in remote areas. The following are the Ralph Stokes Award Honorees since 2011: 2019 Jim Jervey, Southampton County 2018 Chris Adams, Hanover County 2017 Mike Mullins, Washington County 2016 Debbie Murphy, Hanover County 2015 Jerry Funkhouser, Shenandoah County 2014 Robin Gloss, Campbell County 2013 Mike Brown, Fauquier County 2012 David Spence, Smyth County 2011 Clay Francis, Southampton County

We take your safety seriously Virginia Farm Bureau® takes the safety and health of its members and policyholders very seriously, which is why we are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia.

Can I still visit my insurance agent or county Farm Bureau office? County Farm Bureau offices are open to visitors; visits by appointment are preferred. You also can utilize our phone or online resources to conduct business.

What precautions are you taking to protect visitors’ health?

We ask that members and other visitors take the following steps: • Please do not come inside if you are experiencing fever, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. • Please wear a face covering while inside the office. • No more than one customer at a time is allowed in the lobby area. • Upon entry and before you leave, please use the hand sanitizer we’ve provided.

• Maintain a 6-foot distance from other individuals.

What happens if the office closes temporarily?

If we must temporarily close an office in the interest of public health, we will do so and you will be notified as soon as possible. We offer 24/7 phone and online resources for our clients. Helpful Contacts: • Need to file a claim? 800-452-7714 • Need to call in a payment? 888-236-7716 • Need to make a change to your policy? 888-236-7716 You may visit to do any of the following:* · Make a payment (VFB policies or membership only) · Request a policy change · File a claim (auto only) · View/print policy documents · View/print auto ID cards *Please note: If you have not done so already, you must create an online account using your membership number. Thank you for your membership, and for helping us to protect the Farm Bureau family and your community!

Financing Country Living Since 1916 The Experts in Rural Finance Homes • Land • Construction • Livestock Barns • Outbuildings • Equipment

800-919-FARM (3276) / SUMMER 2020


Group health insurance policies benefit employers


aving money on employee benefits while still attracting and retaining a quality workforce is important in today’s competitive economy. Virginia Farm Bureau’s health insurance agency—Experient Health—can help with group insurance policies. Experient Health offers many group insurance plans, including vision, dental, life, accident, cancer, medical gap and disability. A subsidiary of Virginia Farm Bureau, Experient Health has staff in its Richmond office and throughout the state that work to help businesses find the best insurance plans for their employees.

business,” said Meagan Vickery, Experient Health senior account executive. “If you’re a business owner and already have a group health plan, we can become your broker. We evaluate your benefits to ensure they match your business needs. Many times, we can add extra benefits for our members without additional cost.”

then they’re eligible to enroll in health insurance through their business,” Vickery said.

Experient Health can help companies with as few as one employee to as many as 150 employees. Selfemployed business owners also can qualify for group health insurance, Vickery added.

Many group plans offer a broader network of doctors and facilities as well. And in the event the business expands, the small business owner has a benefits package in place to attract and keep quality employees.

“We make the enrollment process as streamlined as possible so business owners can concentrate on their

“If a business owner does not have any W-2 employees and does not consistently pay 1099 workers, and can provide a Schedule C, F or K-1 from their most recent tax return,

Group health insurance policies have many advantages. Premiums for group plans may be less expensive than on the individual marketplace, assuming the business owner doesn’t qualify for tax credits.

For more information on group insurance, call 800-229-7779 or visit


Have questions about Medicare Supplements? Call today!

Virginia Farm Bureau 1-800-229-7779 An authorized licensed insurance agent for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, license number: 109534

This policy has exclusions, limitations and terms under which the policy may be continued in force or discontinued. For more information on benefits, please contact your agent or the health plan. Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. The purpose of this communication is the solicitation of insurance. Contact will be made by an insurance agent or insurance company. Anthem Health Plans of Virginia, Inc. trades as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, and its service area is all of Virginia except for the City of Fairfax, the Town of Vienna, and the area east of State Route 123. Independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. AADVOTH006M(15)-VA 55681VASENABS 24



Even cyclists on Richmond’s Capital Trail need to be aware of pedestrians and other riders.

September campaign steers toward bicyclist and pedestrian safety



ove over, motorists: the end of summer is for bicyclists and pedestrians. September is Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Month in Virginia, and Drive Smart Virginia is reminding drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to share the responsibility of road safety.

The organization’s “See and Be Seen” campaign advocates for motorists to drive without distractions and to be aware of other road users. The initiative also urges bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid distractions, obey traffic laws and increase their visibility by wearing bright and reflective clothing and using flashing lights. The promotion of this year’s

campaign comes in light of pedestrian deaths reaching a record high in Virginia in 2019. Drive Smart Virginia’s annual report revealed 126 pedestrians and 13 bicyclists were killed on Virginia roads in 2019, and an additional 1,896 pedestrians and 754 cyclists were injured. “The increase in deaths and injuries of pedestrians and bicyclists on Virginia roadways is alarming,” said Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., and a member of the DSV board of directors. “Everyone has the right to use the roadways, and it is important that everyone is looking out for each other.” Drivers are required to maintain a 3-foot distance from pedestrians and cyclists on roadways. When sharing roads with vehicles, cyclists should ride with traffic, and pedestrians should walk facing traffic, as far away from vehicles as possible. Virginia law requires drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians at any clearly marked crosswalk. Motorists also must yield in extensions of sidewalk boundaries at the end of a block, and at any intersection without sidewalks where the legal maximum speed doesn’t exceed 35 mph. In rural areas where roadways may not accommodate added space for pedestrians and cyclists, drivers should use extra caution. “As a driver, you need to be absolutely aware of where you are,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Safety Advisory Committee. “If you’re coming up on someone and you’re distracted for any reason, you’re going to approach them at a faster rate than you would anticipate. You need to be aware of blind corners, drops and hills and, especially if you’re on a road where you can’t see very clearly, you need to make sure you’re not distracted as you drive.” / SUMMER 2020


Protect your car’s full value with added endorsements



new, used or leased vehicle while a lien holder or leaseholder is listed on the policy.

hen buying auto insurance, it’s common for car owners to purchase basic collision and comprehensive coverage to keep policy costs low. However, in the event of a total loss of a vehicle, typical collision coverage will only pay for the vehicle’s actual cash value. To ensure coverage for the full value of your car, it’s important to consider adding auto loan/lease payoff coverage or new vehicle replacement coverage endorsements to an auto policy.

New vehicle replacement coverage •W ill replace your car with the same make and model in the event of total loss, but can only be applied to cars less than 2 years old and not previously titled. It’s important to understand that this endorsement pertains to a vehicle’s model year, not length of ownership.

Auto loan/lease payoff coverage

“If you were to buy a 2020-model car financed for 6 or 7 years and wanted to attach one of these endorsements, I’d recommend getting the loan/ lease endorsement,” said Lisa Whitus, personal and commercial lines underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. “The best part about this endorsement

• Is designed to pay the difference between the unpaid amount due on a vehicle’s loan or lease and the actual cash value of the covered vehicle at the time of a total loss. This coverage can be applied to any


is that your vehicle doesn’t have to be 2 years old or less, and any time you have a scenario that you’d want to put this endorsement on, you can.” While opting for loan/lease coverage costs slightly less, Whitus said new vehicle replacement coverage would make sense for those who frequently purchase new cars. Ultimately, each endorsement is available to drivers to relieve the stress of not knowing if they could afford another car if theirs was totaled. “You hear so many horror stories about people saying, ‘I was in a wreck, and I couldn’t get a new car with the amount I received from the accident,’” Whitus said. “If you have one of these endorsements on your policy, we’re saying that we’ll pay the difference, and you’ll have the money to get another.”

Key Farm Bureau Suppliers

Did you know our national contract with Grainger offers product discounts and service benefits? Take advantage of our relationship with Grainger and Farm Bureau-specific key supplier programs that offer special pricing. • Access to 1.5 million products • Online purchasing solutions • Products, services and resources to help keep your people and facilities safe • Free standard shipping • Same-day shipping on in-stock items* • And much more

GRAINGER’S GOT YOUR BACK® Farm Bureau Member Prices It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Log in at to find your Grainger account number. 2. Head to or call 1.800.GRAINGER. 3. Start saving!

*Within the continental U.S. when your order is received by 5 p.m. local time at the shipping facility, which may be in a different time zone from you.

Gr ain g er. co m / Fa r m B ur eau | 1 .8 0 0 .GR A INGER



©2018 W.W. Grainger, Inc. W-BCE1529

Free Medicare 101 Educational Seminars go virtual BY NICOLE ZEMA


our a fresh cup of coffee, pull up a chair and grab an iPad, laptop or smartphone. This year, Medicare education has been presented virtually in living rooms across the state. Virginia Farm Bureau Health Insurance has facilitated free Medicare 101 Educational Seminars since 2016, but this year’s sessions were held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tracy Cornatzer, sales manager for VFB Health Insurance division, said access to health information is more crucial than ever. “We didn’t want COVID-19 to prevent us from holding them this year,” Cornatzer said. “We first want to educate people on how Medicare works, and second, let them know that Farm Bureau is here to help them.” There is still time to RSVP to the final seminar in the series, scheduled for Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. There was strong response to the sessions that kicked off in May, presented by a representative of VFB’s Health Insurance Agency. Participants RSVP’d to the session of their choice and were sent a Webex link to join that meeting. “Some members who responded were excited to attend but never used Webex before,” Cornatzer said. “We offered to send them a test Webex so they could have a run-through before

the seminar. This was a new experience for a lot of people. We hoped to make it as easy as possible for them to join.” A Webex chat feature allowed participants to ask questions, which were addressed at the end of each session. “And we also encouraged the participants to contact their local Farm Bureau office if they had additional questions,” Cornatzer said. She heard from one couple who attended the Sussex County seminar last year, and attended a virtual session this year because the information is so valuable. “Going forward, I see us continuing to offer virtual seminars,” Cornatzer said. “Once people are comfortable meeting in person, we’ll offer a mix of in-person and virtual seminars.” To RSVP for the Aug. 25 session, email your name, county and email address to VirginiaFarmBureauHealthInsurance@ A Webex link will be sent from Virginia Farm Bureau Health Insurance. If you are unable to attend and have questions about Medicare or need assistance signing up for a Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, or Part D plan, contact a local Farm Bureau office or call 800-229-7779. You also can request a quote at

Critical illness insurance plans help employees with healthcare costs


ore than 137 million Americans struggle with medical debt, according to a study by the American Cancer Society. Costs associated with a sudden, major health event like a heart attack, stroke, cancer diagnosis or coronary bypass surgery can pile up, putting a financial strain on a family and adding stress to a life-changing situation. Critical illness insurance plans offered by employers can help provide some financial breathing room. These plans typically pay a lump sum to the policyholder or covered parties if they suffer a major health event. “Many employees are interested in critical illness coverage to offset the out-of-pocket costs associated with health insurance coverage,” said Michelle Stinnett, an account executive with Virginia Farm Bureau’s healthcare companies. “If an individual has a heart attack and he or she has a

$5,000 individual deductible, paying that $5,000 could be a financial burden. The lump sum payment received from a critical illness policy can pay that deductible or pay that individual’s personal bills until he or she can get back to work.” Claims are paid directly to the policyholder, who can determine how that payment is used. A policyholder may use it to cover medical payments, travel for treatment, monthly bills or lost wages. Underwriting is required for approval, so policyholders will have to answer certain medical questions to determine whether they qualify. The questions are like those asked when applying for life insurance. Coverage for these plans typically is offered to policyholders on a voluntary basis. If a policyholder chooses to enroll, that employee is responsible for 100% of the premium cost. A

competitive rate for coverage is usually one hour of pay per week. Stinnett knows the importance of critical illness plans through personal experience. “Both of my parents have had heart attacks,” she said. “I personally have a critical illness plan that I purchased mainly because of my parents’ medical history, but also to protect my personal finances should I have a major health event as well.” Stinnett recommends people evaluate the need and cost of a critical illness plan for themselves. “If you have a high-deductible health plan, have a family history of one or more of these medical conditions and want to protect yourself financially, I would seriously consider purchasing critical illness insurance.” For more information on critical illness policies, call 800-229-7779 or visit / SUMMER 2020


Heart of the Home

Delicious eats on the street


treet food is having a moment. With food trucks and carts set up in parking lots or on roadsides, there’s an endless variety of convenient, ready-to-go bites available. Prepared fresh right in front of you, street food is growing in popularity because of its relatively inexpensive price and casual vibe. Because many food trucks and stands usually are gathered in one place, there’s often a wide variety of different cuisines to try. Eaten while standing, street food goes hand-in-hand with outdoor entertainment. Some street food vendors offer authentic ethnic cuisine like Cuban, Greek or Mexican. Others offer creative fusions of flavors. Whatever your palate, there’s a street food for everyone. Try some of these street treats that will kick your taste buds to the curb.

Steak Street Tacos with Spicy Pico De Gallo INGREDIENTS 3 beef flat iron steaks (about 1½ pounds)


12 5” flour tortillas

Cut beef steaks lengthwise in half, then crosswise into ¼” strips; set aside.

spicy pico de gallo (recipe follows) 8-ounce package shredded Mexican cheese blend

In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Place beef and marinade in a food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Close the bag securely and refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove beef, and discard the marinade.

Marinade: ½ cup Italian dressing ¼ cup fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon honey 1½ teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon chile powder Food trucks offer a wide variety of tacos, and Mexican-style varieties like these are popular. 28


Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add half of the beef; stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until the outside surface of beef is no longer pink (Do not overcook). Repeat with the remaining beef.

Heart of the Home

Street vendors often prepare meat, tortillas and a variety of vegetables on the spot, so customers are assured hot, fresh fare.

Street corn’s taste makes up for its messiness.

¼ teaspoon garlic salt juice from one lime ¼ cup grated cotija cheese (or Parmesan, feta or queso fresco) 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or chili powder for heat) chopped cilantro for garnish, optional DIRECTIONS Pierce a skewer halfway into the bottom of each corn cob (If using wooden skewers, pre-soak them in water for 30 minutes). Preheat the grill to medium heat (350-450°).

Evenly distribute the beef on the tortillas. Top each with 1 tablespoon pico de gallo and 1 tablespoon cheese.

Spicy Pico de Gallo INGREDIENTS 1½ cups chopped tomato

DIRECTIONS In a large bowl, combine tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeño pepper. Stir in picante sauce or salsa and lime juice. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour to let flavors blend. - National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Grilled Mexican Street Corn

½ cup finely chopped onion ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper ¼ cup hot picante sauce or salsa 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

INGREDIENTS 5 ears fresh corn, husked ¼ cup mayonnaise

Place the corn directly over the heat, cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes, turning often until the kernels are spotted brown. While the corn is grilling, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, salt and lime. In a separate bowl, mix the cheese with the paprika; set aside. Carefully remove the corn from the grill, and transfer the cobs to a large platter. Smear the mayonnaise mixture over each corn cob, then sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Serve immediately. -Nikki Gladd of Seeded at the Table for Iowa Corn Growers Association

2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt / SUMMER 2020


A raspberry smoothie made with milk and yogurt is a nutrient-packed treat.

Dairy foods packed with healthy nutrients


ad diet claims are popular in our culture and can cause confusion about what to eat. Consumers should shift their focus to consider the unique nutrients each food group provides. For example, did you know that dairy foods are the No. 1 dietary source of calcium and vitamin D? The following are more reasons why dairy nutrients matter.

Dairy provides bone-building nutrients

Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are some of the best naturally occurring sources of calcium. Along with vitamin D and phosphorus, calcium in dairy foods works to support bone growth and maintenance. Since most of our bone development happens before adulthood, it is important for children to consume the recommended daily servings of dairy. Guidelines recommend two servings of fat-free or low-fat 30


dairy for children 2 to 3 years, 2½ servings for children 4 to 8, and three servings for everyone beyond the age of 9. Not consuming enough calcium as a child may increase risk for osteoporosis later in life.

Dairy linked to lower chronic disease

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, as part of healthy eating patterns that have been linked to health benefits. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in the U.S. Research connects dairy consumption to a lower risk of high blood pressure. A growing body of research also indicates dairy consumption is associated with lower risk for Type 2 diabetes. About one in 10 American adults have diabetes, the majority of which are Type 2.

Dairy is a nutrient powerhouse

Dairy’s nutrient contributions have been noted in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans since they were first released in 1980. Eating dairy foods helps Americans meet recommendations for calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Additionally, dairy foods provide high-quality protein for muscle growth and repair. Meeting dairy recommendations can help Americans close nutrient gaps and contribute to overall health. Milk can be enjoyed plain or added to a smoothie with fruit for breakfast or a post-workout snack. Yogurt can be the base of a parfait or the topping on tacos. And cheese can star on appetizer trays or provide a flavorful protein source in a salad. By including dairy along with other healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, you are supporting your health. Visit for delicious recipes. -Callie Yakubisin, RD, LDN, is the manager of food and nutrition outreach for The Dairy Alliance in North Carolina and Virginia. She can be reached at cyakubisin@

Refreshingly Raspberry Smoothie The perfect start to a busy morning or great finish to a tough workout, this smoothie is filling and refreshing with just a hint of cucumber and mint. INGREDIENTS 1 cup frozen raspberries 1 cup milk ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt ½ cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped 1 tablespoon agave 4-5 mint leaves 1 cup crushed ice DIRECTIONS In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide evenly between three glasses for 8-ounce servings.

2020 State Fair of Virginia has been canceled


he Virginia Farm Bureau board of directors announced on July 23 that it has canceled the 2020 State Fair of Virginia, and will instead hold a modified State Fair 4-H Livestock Show in early October. The traditional fair that was scheduled for Sept. 25 through Oct. 4 will not take place due to complications associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “This was a difficult decision, but safety is our number one priority,” said Marlene Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director. “We’ve spent months developing plans and scenarios that would allow us to still host the fair this year, but with the everchanging, unpredictable COVID-19 situation, we just couldn’t make it work.” The State Fair of Virginia is an annual event that nurtures, preserves and celebrates the best of Virginia’s past, present and future through scholarship initiatives, creative programming and a focus on the commonwealth’s agriculture and natural resources industries. In 2019, nearly 245,000 people attended the State Fair. The complexity of the event requires thousands of hours of planning by staff, partners and vendors; planning typically begins many months before the fair’s opening day. “In a normal year, preparing for this annual event is a huge undertaking. In the midst of a global pandemic, it just wasn’t feasible,” Jolliffe noted. Agriculture and youth are the foundation of the fair’s

mission, “so our first priority was to find a way to honor our youth and allow them to be recognized for their dedication and hard work,” noted VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “While a modified State Fair 4-H Livestock Show is not ideal, we believe it will allow our youth to showcase the yearlong effort they’ve put into raising their animals, and enable them to earn scholarship money as well.” Pryor said every precaution will be taken to keep participants safe during the event. State Fair staff are working with Virginia Cooperative Extension employees to finalize plans for the livestock show, and those details will be announced at a later date. The State Fair has been held each fall since 2009 at its permanent home at the 330-acre Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. The event was established in 1854, and was not held in 1918 due to the Spanish influenza pandemic. “While our hearts are heavy, we believe this is the right thing to do,” Jolliffe said. “It is important that we are good stewards of our operation and consider the health and welfare of our communities. “We are thankful for the thousands who make this magical event come to life each September. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s fair, Sept. 24 through Oct. 3. We will be back bigger, better and stronger.” For more information, visit / SUMMER 2020


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